As a keen but rather disorganised gardener myself, with the privilege or pain, depending on how you look at it, of having to look after one of the ever diminishing number of quarter acre sections in Blenheim, the idea of giving up some time to go and help out at the Marlborough Community Gardens was a bit daunting, but after a morning spent with my hands in the soil, I'm convinced this is something the community really needs to embrace.
Located most appropriately on Ballinger Drive, off Budge Street, the community gardens provide a number of plots that are available for different community groups to use to plant vegetable crops. Long term there is a plan to expand and create permanent areas for various fruit trees and bushes.
On a sunny Saturday morning, I showed up with a borrowed trailer, and a load of surplus mulch and compost produced on my own back yard. I'd been invited to help by a friend from the Baptist Church, but the morning soon turned out to be a who's who of local community groups. It was surprising to know how many people I knew, and the community spirit was wonderful with people helping each other out, and a morning tea provided.
On Sunday afternoon, I took the opportunity to visit some of the private gardens in the Awatere Valley that were open to the public as part of the Seddon Combined Churches Garden Tour. Once again, the community spirit was wonderful, with a well organised event with delicious refreshments, beautiful gardens, and friendly people.
The drive along Marama Road in itself was a pleasant scenic outing, with the sun doing its bit by putting in an appearance after weeks of miserable weather, and the rugged backdrop of the Awatere Valley. Even some properties that weren't open to the public were very attractive with spring flowers lining the roadside, and attractive plantings. Some steep gullies along the road completed the picture with thick native vegetation probably as it always had been.
After a weekend of both assisting with the creation of an edible garden, and looking at the fruits of other people's labours, it's given me an opportunity to reflect on what a green fingered bunch Marlburians are, whether we're urban or rural dwellers. With the 'main event', Hunter's Garden Marlborough just a few weeks away, it leaves me wondering whether Marlborough should be moving to officially brand itself as 'Destination Garden'. This won't be easy, given the rather inhospitable dry climate that a lot of the region tends to have, which can leave visitors with an initial impression of a fairly stark, barren landscape, but there seem to be plenty of willing hands who are already creating some amazing green treasures amongst the grapes and the windswept hills.